Friday, January 22, 2016

A Flexible Border Quilting Design to Draft

Earlier this week, I shared my finish of the English mosaic hexagon quilt and said I would share the border design I drafted.  I wanted to get it all documented for myself because it is a flexible design that can be adapted to lots of border sizes.  This is my original draft.
This morning I sat down with my 11 by 17 pad of graph paper and my colored marker set to do that and I'm taking you along with a series of step-by-step instructions. 
My pencil lines represent the border width -- from the seam where it joins to the quilt top to where the binding attachment seam will be (if all goes as planned).  The first step is to divide the length of the border less the corners into an even number of segments -- for example 10, 12, 14, etc.  An odd number of segments makes turning the corners with a consistent motif impossible.  The actual length of these segments doesn't matter.
Here you can see yellow dots dividing the length of the border into an even number of segments and pinpointing the center of the design area as well.  I put my dots (using a chalk pencil) 5/8" (approx. 1.5 cm) from the seam line and the outer dots 7/8" (approx. 2.5 cm) from the raw edge of the border.  The third (center) row of dots is midway between the first two rows of dots. 
This is all the marking that needs to be done!!  Now you are ready to quilt!
I work on a stationary long-arm machine (the APQS George) and use a plexiglass straight edge (from with my edge following presser foot to stitch straight lines.

The complete design takes 10 individual lines of stitching and I go all the way around the quilt with each line but you could chose to stop at the corners, tie off and do the next line, etc. until you have one side finished.   I'm going to go through all 10 border lines and then at the end I'll show you the corner but I stitched continuously through the corners on my quilt.

The first line is represented by the green dashes.  It begins at the midpoint dot just before a corner (see the last photo).  I set my straight edge tool 1/4" (more or less) to one side of the dots and line up across the middle of the design area connecting to the dot on the opposite side of the border. 
Stopping in the dot at the end with the needle down, I pivot and align the straight edge to the opposite edge of the border.
Once that line is completed and tied off, I add the second line.  As these first two lines cross at the center, they create the diamonds that are the basis of the design.  The size of the diamonds will vary from quilt to quilt but they will always be evenly proportioned.
The third and fourth lines echo the outer edges of the diamonds to define them.  I used the edge of my presser foot to measure the space between them -- it's a bit more than 1/4" but the consistency is more important than the measurement and I can maintain that easier by using the edge of the presser foot.
You may have a different strategy but that doesn't matter as long as the spacing between the lines is consistent.
The fifth and sixth lines are straight lines that touch the tips of the diamond echo lines and are (hopefully) an even distance from the seam line of the border and from where the seam line of the binding will be when you finish the quilt.  If you do a test of this design, you may find that you need to move the dots in the first step towards the center a bit to make a personal adjustment for your tools and presser foot. 
Once these six lines are stitched, you could actually do anything you wanted in the diamond and triangle spaces.  As I'm looking at this picture, I'm thinking it would be fun to stitch assorted tiny buttons where each of the center dots are in the diamonds!!
I used the pumpkin seed motif to fill in my diamonds and triangles.  I am confident about stitching "arcs" so it's enjoyable.  It took four lines to complete the pattern.  I hope the lines and little arrows show you the path I follow clearly.
These lines can be done in any order.
The size of the diamonds determines the scale of the pumpkin seed motifs and the dot in the center of each diamond gives you a target for the arc.  Generally, I do one arc, stop, reset my hands (and brain), do the next arc, repeat.  However you proceed, I advise that you stop at the ends of arcs, not in the middle of an arc -- it's easier to camouflage a start-up jog in a corner than on an arc!
As I stitched the final line of the pumpkin seeds, my brain was practically shouting "yahoo" outloud as I got closer and closer to the finish!!
Turning the corners is easy though my strategy didn't yield a perfect diamond.  The dashed blue and green lines in this diagram represent the path I followed to connect the side diamonds and get around the corner. 
This diagram shows the first pumpkin seed line turning the corner.  The second line inside the diamonds will complete the remainder of the pumpkin seed motif in the corner diamonds.
If you are concerned about that wonky looking corner diamond -- if they are all the same, consistent shape, that's good in my mind.  The issue for me would be if they weren't the same, but you may be able to come up with a different solution that suits you better.
Here is another look at the design from the back side of my quilt.
Finally, when I trimmed the edge of my quilt before adding the binding, I measured from the last line of the quilting design so that when the binding was added the distance from the binding seam to the outside line of the design was consistent.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture so I hope that sentence makes sense.

So print this out or bookmark it and give it a try the next time you are stumped for a border design!  I'd love to hear how you use it.  I know I'll be using it again!!
I hope you get to do lots of stitching this weekend!!

Mary Huey


  1. Great border stitch design! Very doable and I like how you resolved the corners. Definitely filing this one in the idea book for a future quilt.

  2. Excellent tutorial, Mary. I am definitely bookmarking this one.

  3. Excellent tutorial- love the different passes being shown in different colors - I am currently doing a border of on point squares that this would have been great for that....timing in life is everything Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jumped here from Show Off Saturday. Awesome border design! You are so generous to share it. Thank you.

  5. So interesting to see how you create thins! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. So interesting to see how you create thins! Thanks for sharing :)

  7. Great tips, thank you! I will bear this in mind when I next tackle a border. :)

  8. Very intricate border stitching. You make it look easy.

  9. It was great to follow along on your stitch plan. I like the idea of measuring from the last stitching line to trim for the binding. Thanks for sharing.